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Copyright © 2018 Natural Medicines (www.naturalmedicines.com)
May 2018

Taking these supplements? Be careful in the sun

With summer comes more time in the sun. We should all be vigilant about protecting the skin from sun exposure, regardless of the supplements we are taking. But some supplements in particular might make you even more prone to sunburn.

Alpha hydroxy acids are a common ingredient in scrubs, lotions, and creams used for wrinkles. While they might be beneficial for reducing wrinkles, they seem to increase people's sensitivity to the sun. They also might INCREASE skin damage. Similarly, applying bergamot, lemon oil, or lime oil might also increase sensitivity to the sun, especially in people with fair skin. People using these and other supplements that increase sun sensitivity should always apply broad spectrum, water or sweat resistant sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater.

In addition to topical treatments, people taking oral supplements containing St. John’s wort should be extra careful with sun exposure. Taking as little as 1.8 grams of St. John's wort extract daily appears to increase photosensitivity, especially in women. This amount of St. John's wort is commonly used for depression, anxiety, and several other conditions. 

For details on more supplements that might have similar effects, check out our chart of photosensitizers.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2018 Natural Medicines Inc. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. Natural Medicines is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.